The first explosion shattered the wood, bent the tracks and rocked the flatbed. The secondary blast, as the gas canisters went up, lifted the flatbed and threw some of the anti air crew off. The metal wheels dug into the soft plains earth and it began skewing off at an angle.
The locomotive followed the flatbed until the coupling broke and the rail car flipped over. The engine rolled over the flatbed, crashed off at its own angle and gouged a path through the seed grass. Prisoners and Lensman’s men scattered as it headed for them.
Emergency brakes were screaming on in the remaining carriages, but couldn’t stop the first three cars derailing. The stonks laid shots into these upturned boxes, turning the dark wood panelling into shrapnel.
One by one the autogunners dropped as Kess did his job. One of them ducked low behind the cover of his nest and kept firing wildly. Kess transferred his attention to the anti air at the rear of the train.
The bomb lobbers arced their first shots over the train and onto the track beyond. The crew dialled in some adjustments and landed their second salvo dead on the anti air, completing Kess’ task.
Former prisoners and Lensman’s squad had risen from the seed grass and were concentrating fire on the upright passenger carriage. They charged toward it, over confident.
Lensman could see the tactical mistake, and had his fears confirmed when a series of small explosions shook the rear boxcar. The carriage walls disappeared as a large calibre gun fired from inside. Five prisoners and two of Lensman’s men fell. The rest dived for cover and began returning fire.
The bomb lobber crew dialled in another correction and fired. The boxcar exploded.
Out of ammunition, the last autogunner moved to reload. Kess put a bullet into the narrow gap between the rim of his helmet and the top of the sandbag barrier.
There was a lull. Everyone moved more carefully toward the last boxcar and carriage. Lensman trotted up the track and joined Mov and Rey in checking the wrecked locomotive and carriages for survivors. There were none. The sound of smashing glass and gunfire heralded the last stand of the soldiers in the upright carriage.
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